Stress Less About IBS
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Everyone has the occasional digestive issue but for some it can seem to take over life itself. You may suffer constant belly aches, bloating, flatulence, constipation raging for days or urgent diarrhea. It can be very frustrating, embarrassing and restricting for those dealing with such chronic discomfort. You need not suffer in silence; we encourage you to speak with your physician or registered dietitian nutritionist to help you better manage these symptoms.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, meaning it causes unpleasant symptoms but no damage to the body. Its cause is currently unknown, but it is diagnosed through a process of elimination that relates to the above non-specific symptoms that can also occur with various other conditions. While there is no cure for IBS at this time there are many treatments to help minimize symptoms and improve quality of life. Symptoms are often exacerbated by stress and anxiety, as well as dietary triggers. The list of possible treatments and supportive therapies include:
- Physical therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Eight Tips for Better Digestion:
1. Enjoy cooked vegetables.
While raw vegetables may not sit so well, cooked can be better tolerated since they require less work for our digestive tract to break down. Enjoy veggies in casseroles, soups, stir-fries, stews or side dishes for needed fiber and other important nutrients.
2. Avoid stimulants.
Some substances overstimulate the digestive tract and can aggravate symptoms. Prime suspects that should be avoided include caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
3. Limit foods known to stimulate gas production.
- Dairy products that contain lactose; try lactose-free varieties for better tolerance
- Sugar alcohols: mannitol, xylitol and sorbitol
- Beans and lentils
- Onions, garlic, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus
4. Schedule consistent meal and snack times.
Your digestive tract does best with routine. Eating a meal or small snack every 3-4 hours can promote good digestion.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Adequate fluid intake helps regulate the natural movement of the digestive tract for smooth digestion. Aim for 2-3 liters of water daily to meet hydration needs.
6. Get moving.
Exercise is another helpful regulator of healthy bowel motility. Engage in moderate daily exercise such as a 30-minute brisk walk. Aim for a weekly total of at least 150 minutes.
7. Find effective ways to manage stress.
Do your best to avoid conflict or distractions during mealtimes. Also, along with exercise, try practicing yoga, meditation or prayer to alleviate some of the symptoms triggering tension.
8. Consult with a doctor or dietitian about the low FODMAP diet.
The low FODMAP diet is an effective and scientifically proven dietary approach to help treat the symptoms of IBS. It can be complex to navigate, so dietary counseling with a registered dietitian nutritionist is advised.
Good nutrition is important for everyone and navigating a healthful diet in the face of GI issues doesn’t have to be daunting. For more information on nutrition consultations to help you improve your overall and GI health, visit the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services website or call 972.560.2655.
Article provided by Gillian Gatewood, RDN, LD, CNSC, registered dietitian nutritionist at Cooper Clinic.